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Saving Bees in Our Community

We need our bees. They pollinate our food and help our flowers flourish. It may be surprising to learn that one out of every three mouthfuls of food in the American diet is a product of honeybee pollination—from fruit to nuts to coffee beans.1

However, bees are disappearing at alarming rates. The Center for Biological Diversity reports that 700 of the 4,000 native bee species in North America and Hawaii are heading toward extinction. Beekeepers have lost 30-50 percent of their colonies annually over the past decade (called bee colony collapse disorder), and if this rate continues, the managed beekeeping industry may be extinct soon, too.2

The clubhouse at Trilogy at the Polo Club is cordoned off as bees are safely removed and relocated.

Our government has implemented a strategy to combat the issue pointing to pesticides, mites and viruses as the leading cause, yet not much is being done at the community level. Why is this? I believe it comes down to fear. Many are allergic or have read about bees killing people, so their first instinct is to kill them. HOAs and pest management companies say they don’t want to endanger the people they protect, so exterminating hives is often standard protocol.

This mindset needs to change. “To keep bees healthy, you need a good environment and you need your neighbors to keep healthy bees,” said Nathalie Steinhauer of the Bee Informed Partnership and the Apiary Inspectors of America in a USA Today report. “Honeybee health is a community matter.”

I recently became aware of this when a gardener pointed out a hive in my front yard. I was tickled pink to watch the little workers fly to and fro busily doing their job. They were nesting in an IID electrical box and I thought, “We need to move you guys to a safer location.”

I emailed our HOA management company to report the hive and to ask their policy, emphasizing that we did not want the bees killed and would pay for a beekeeper at our own expense, if necessary. They said they would get back to me. I stepped out and returned to find a pest management technician in a big white suit exterminating my bees! In shock, I screamed at him to stop, but to no avail. My bees were gone and I was horrified.

Our relationship with bees starts with a positive mindset.

Sadness and anger quickly turned to action. Didn’t they know about the plight of bees? Why wouldn’t they hire a beekeeper to relocate them versus a pest management company to kill them? Who assessed the situation and determined the bees needed to be killed?

Lori Albert, CEO and president of Albert Management which manages close to 50 HOAs and approximately 10,000 homes, says that it is very rare that they hire a beekeeper. “It is my understanding that there is not a qualified beekeeper that resides in the Coachella Valley and that [removal] is quite expensive.” She added that as HOA management it is their job to rely on the advice of experts and to protect both humans and animals in their managed properties. She referred me to her expert Lori Fahnestock of Powerful Pest.

Fahnestock was quick to express the dangers of bees and sent me numerous articles on people locally who had been killed and the lawsuits that ensued. It was obvious to me that they had no means of removing bees, no place to relocate them, and no incentive to bring in a beekeeper – even claiming that she didn’t know of any that were licensed and insured. I asked that she share the work order for my bees and saw them labeled as “aggressive,” not a true assessment at all. The cost of extermination was $245.

With not much effort, I found several licensed and insured beekeepers including Lance Davis who has worked locally for over 30 years. Davis grew up managing bees and has several registered apiaries. Last year, he even won the Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Oasis Award for Sustainability. He confirmed my suspicion that pest management companies don’t often refer jobs, adding that if they label the bees as aggressive, they are within the law to exterminate them. The cost for bee removal starts at $125 with access as the primary factor for pricing.

Beekeepers release bees in places that allow them to continue to do their important job of pollination.

What can we do at the community level?

First, if you are afraid of bees, don’t plant foliage that attracts them; use natural bug deterrents in place of harmful pesticides; know that bright colored clothing and fragrances attract bees; and, if you see a hive or swarm in your yard or common space, don’t panic. As with any wild species you may encounter, keep a safe distance and contact a qualified professional – a beekeeper – to assess the situation and safely remove them.

Lastly, please join me in encouraging your gardener, HOA and HOA management company to adopt a policy to save bees whenever possible by first assessing a situation and then safely removing them.

We need our bees; working collectively, we can make a difference.

Licensed and insured beekeepers:

  • Lance Davis, Killer Bee Live Removal (760) 346.9542
  • Javier Salazar, Best Live Bee Removal (760) 641.5444
  • Brian’s Live Bee Removal (760) 523.3754

References: 1) The White House Office of the Press Secretary June 20, 2014; https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/documents/PresMemoJune2014/PollinatorFactSheet-PresMemo.pdf; 2) Natural Resource Defense Council, https://www.nrdc.org/stories/buzz-about-colony-collapse-disorder

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